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Jerry A Stimmel
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Jerry Stimmel’s Answers

213 total


  • I got an eviction Notice from my landlord.Can I pay a rent and not move out?

    I just got an eviction notice from court today.Can I pay a rent to my landlord and not move out? They ask me to write the respond to their Lawyer too. What should I do? Thanks!

    Jerry’s Answer

    Your question is a little hard to follow, but I infer that you have been given an eviction summons which requires you to respond to the landlord's lawyer. If you pay rent now, it's money down the drain unless you have a formal written settlement agreement with the landlord which extinguishes the eviction case. Without the settlement agreement, paying now does not stop the eviction. You must answer the complaint and exactly follow the instructions and the deadline in the summons. I think you'll need a lawyer, and you might qualify for free legal help from the Housing Justice Project downtown at the courthouse. You should act immediately.

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  • Collection noticed recd on a rental, I am no longer co-signer on

    I co-signed on a 1yr lease for my daughter 2 x. Each year I had to physically go in and sign & provide proof of income, etc. on the 3rd yr, my daughter did not extend lease, she signed off a month to month. I signed nothing. She became financ...

    Jerry’s Answer

    In general, when a creditor (landlord) acquiesces in a material change of the contract without the guarantor's participation (such as by extending the tenant on a month-to-month basis after expiration of the lease), the guarantor is discharged from liability. Your intent, and the landlord's, was that you were signing as a guarantor of your daughter's obligations, but I will go out on a limb and guess that the co-signer clause was probably not written effectively (most are not). When you co-signed the lease, the language of the lease probably doesn't say you are signing as a guarantor, and may expressly say you are signing "as a principal, not as a surety" or something to that effect. Such language, if it exists, is the landlord's effort to hold you just as liable as if you were actually the tenant. Even if that language does make you a principal rather than a surety (which I doubt), it is not enough to make you liable for month-to-month extensions after the 1-year term. Getting a guarantor out of liability is often easier than most people realize. I think you are off the hook, but you might have to fight about it in court and contend with credit reporting consequences which may show you in a (false) unfavorable light. My guess is that you may need to invoke the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices and/or Fair Credit Reporting Act, and this state's equivalent versions, to make this problem go away. This answer is based upon inferences from your inquiry and could be different after review of all the documents and transaction history.

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  • We are going to sue our roommate. Need some advice.

    My husband, roommate and I (3 of us) signed onto an apartment lease for a full year. However, the roommate was unable to pay his share (1/3) for the majority of the time. We want to sue him for rent owed to us and utilities. We want to know how s...

    Jerry’s Answer

    First, how much money are you talking about? Lawyers' fees can easily swamp a small case. If the roommate has no money and no prospect of money (such as inheritance, new job, etc), there's not much point in spending a lot of money on a lawyer. You can sue in small claims court if the claim is not more than $5,000 or if you are willing to accept that limit as a way to stay in small claims court. Lawyers are not allowed in small claims court. If you prevail, you might need a lawyer to collect the judgment, but get the judgment first. If you use small claims court, I recommend that you spend some time sitting through small claim cases as a spectator. You'll get an idea of how to have your exhibits in order with extra copies for the judge and the opponent, how you might need to rehearse your presentation, and how little time and patience the judge will give you. From the disclosures in your inquiry I'd predict that you will get a judgment in your favor, but the judge does not write the check. Whether you are "solid" is not possible to evaluate with the limited disclosures in this forum. Sometimes at the beginning of small claims cases, someone will address the people waiting for court to begin and ask if anyone wants to try mediation first, instead of proceeding directly to the lawsuit. The mediators are legitimate, but I recommend not using them in this case. You want a judgment, not a mediated agreement which has no teeth.

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  • Is it legal to video tape or record neighbors coversation?

    This neighbor is put up a video camera and it's on 24/7 pointed in this direction and video taping neighbors in apartment complex. Also this person spying on his neighbor and listening of their all coversation via spy listening device. Is it legal...

    Jerry’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Voice-recording a private conversation without consent of all participants is a crime in this state, subject to a few exceptions not applicable to your situation. Video-recording is not a crime. There is sometimes room to debate whether a particular conversation is "private" but your description seems to involve at least some private conversations for which nonconsensual voice-recording is prohibited.

    One wrinkle which sometimes arises is that, to avoid criminal liability, the person doing the voice-recording must give audible notice to all participants of the private conversation that the recording is happening. The person does not necessarily have to obtain the expressed agreement from the participants. It is sufficient if the person announces that the conversation is being recorded and the participants continue their private conversation without objection. Agreement can be implied in such situations.

    Combined with other conduct of the neighbor, this conduct could amount to stalking or harassment. If you are one of the targets of the surveillance and you live in the same complex as the neighbor, you may have some recourse with the apartment management. A landlord owes each tenant a duty of "quiet enjoyment" which generally means the right to occupy your apartment without interference from other sources which the landlord can control. You could consider a police complaint or an anti-harassment protection order.

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  • Do I have to allow my landlord to show my place to potential renters twice a week for the last 2 months of lease?

    I am currently renting a townhouse in Kent, WA. My lease expires August 31, 2015 and the landlord is asking me to sign new lease agreement on June 23, otherwise he would like to inspect the property on June 28 and begin showing in to potential ren...

    Jerry’s Answer

    The clear, unambiguous answer is: "Maybe."

    The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) says the landlord can show to prospective new renters after giving 1 day advance written notice for each showing, and the tenant may not "unreasonably" withhold permission for this. The implied meaning is that the tenant may "reasonably" withhold permission. There is no bright-line definition of reasonableness, so the concept is negotiable. The RLTA also says that both sides must exercise good faith in exercising their rights and responsibilities. Maybe you could suggest an alternative such as once-a-week showing for July and increase gradually to twice a week in August if the landlord doesn't find a new tenant before then. If you are interested in staying, your bargaining power is uncertain but keep in mind that a landlord would rather not have to turn over a unit. Turnover is expensive in money and time, and maybe you can negotiate something worthwhile.

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  • Can we ask for pain and suffering as well as punitive damages in small claims court in WA state

    We have dispute with local towing company and their interactions was outrageous ..not only they overcharged but dealing with them caused a lot of emotional distress to me. Wondering if I can ask for emotional distress and punitive damage(Because ...

    Jerry’s Answer

    Small claims courts are divisions within county district courts, and those courts see towing disputes all the time. I recommend sitting through some towing cases and some small cases as a spectator first. You can get an idea of the way those hearings are conducted, how you need to present your evidence, and how little time and patience the court will give you. Be mindful that everyone whose car has been towed feels violated somehow, so the court will have to be convinced that the towing company actually overstepped the law. Claims for pain and suffering are technically allowed in small claims courts but I think they will be ignored unless you can show actual medical consequences. For that, you'll need an expert witness (physician, for example). The proof needed for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress is less technical, but it still needs to be much more serious than you have described, and small claims court is not a viable place to assert the claim. What you are really describing is insult and aggravation. It is very hard to assign a dollar value to that type of claim even if you can first prove a violation of a legal duty by the towing company.

    The punitive damage claim has a better chance, if you can prove that the towing company violated the Consumer Protection Act by committing unfair or deceptive acts or practices. A link to the Consumer Protection Act follows this answer. Your inquiry does not have enough details to evaluate whether the towing company has committed such acts. You'll need facts, not belief.

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  • Assault with a deadly weapon

    What is the punishment for assault with a deadly weapon in the state of Washington

    Jerry’s Answer

    Assuming that the question pertains to an adult defendant convicted of a felony rather than a misdemeanor, the possible range is from 1 month in confinement up to life in prison, plus financial penalties and possible supervision after confinement. The computation of actual punishment depends upon three factors:
    1. Is this assault in the first degree, second degree, or third degree? Is the victim a child?
    2. What is the defendant's offender score? The offender score is determined by a formula which adds up other felony convictions (adult and juvenile) in various combinations.
    3. Is the deadly weapon a firearm or something else? And is the deadly weapon specifically charged as an aggravating factor, or is it merely part of the basic charge?
    Your inquiry does not give enough details to answer the question reliably, but following this answer is a link to a reliable sentencing manual which explains the formulas and the factors.

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  • Can a landowner DC electrical to a "surrogate" tenant?

    I originally leased a unit to a woman a year ago. She invited in her boyfriend. Three months ago she left but her boyfriend does not want to leave. I have given written notice to leave by 19th June. I am in the process of getting an eviction a...

    Jerry’s Answer

    If by "DC electrical" you mean shut off (disconnect) the power supply, the answer is no. Self-help eviction is strictly prohibited by landlord-tenant law, and at least one court opinion says it's a crime. A court order is necessary to get a tenant out of the property. Don't try short-cuts for this. Get an experienced eviction lawyer on board.

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  • If it is not stated in my lease, am I required to pay the full months rent on the month I am moving out?

    We were approved for military housing and we have to move in by a specific day. I put in my 20 day notice to move out by the 13th but the property manager is claiming thay since I did not give it to them by the 10th, I have to pay for all of July....

    Jerry’s Answer

    If you are a month-to-month tenant with rent due on the first day of the month, the deadline for your notice of termination effective at the end of June was June 10. Even though you missed the deadline by only a few days, you are still liable for July's rent.

    But your inquiry seems to indicate that your lease is for a longer term, not month-to-month. Even though your lease apparently has a 20-day notice requirement in addition to a $2400 cancellation fee, the June 10 deadline it is irrelevant if this is not a month-to-month tenancy. I agree with you that the property manager is incorrect and that you don't have to pay an extra month's rent in addition to a lease cancellation fee.

    I don't know the length of your lease, but be mindful that if it is for a term longer than a year -- even one day longer -- the landlord's signature must have been notarized with the same formality as a deed. If it wasn't notarized, it's only a month-to-month rental in this state. In addition, whether the lease is month-to-month, or up to a year, or more than a year, the landlord has a duty to mitigate its loss by re-renting with diligence.

    Finally, the validity of a lease cancellation fee may be debatable. A cancellation fee is a type of "liquidated damages" clause. Those clauses sometimes have sloppy drafting, and sometimes have an invalid legal premise. The legal premise of a liquidated damage clause is that the actual damages are so hard to measure or expensive to prove that the set amount (the cancellation fee) is agreed upon as a substitute for having to guess at the actual amount. In this rental market, I'm not sure that's a valid premise for the validity of a liquidated damages clause.

    This answer is based on the disclosures in your inquiry and inferences drawn from those disclosures. The answer could be different upon a review of the transaction documents and transaction history.

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  • Can I insist that a tenant take out renters' insurance, before moving in?

    I was surprised to learn that my tenant doesn't have renters' insurance. I did ask my property manager to make sure he had it. I've had a bad experience with a tenant who left the faucet running and flooded two floors below. My insurance agent w...

    Jerry’s Answer

    Let me answer that question with a bunch of other questions.

    Most people think of renter’s insurance as protection against loss of the renter’s own property. The renter gets paid if an earthquake wipes out the renter’s belongings, or a fire burns the renter’s contents, or a tree falls through the roof, or a flood washes everything away, or a burglar steals something. The renter doesn’t have to worry about who is at fault. The insurance company pays the renter and absorbs the loss if the insurance company can’t recover from somebody else at fault.

    But does renter’s insurance cover renter’s liability also? If the renter leaves a faucet running or negligently starts a fire, does renter’s insurance pay the landlord? Does it pay the other tenants? What about personal injury? Does renter’s insurance pay for personal injury to others in the building caused by the renter or the renter’s guests? Car insurance works something like that. Is renter’s insurance like car insurance? You can buy a pricey umbrella policy which would pay for this type of liability. Is that what you mean by renter’s insurance? What would the coverage limits be? $25K? $100K? Why not $1 million, $10 million, or $20 million, and while you’re at it, require the renter to name the landlord as an additional insured under the policy? Why not make each renter in the building procure insurance for everything so the landlord doesn’t have to buy insurance at all? Is that what renter’s insurance means?

    If you require the tenant to carry renter’s insurance, what do you mean by that? What does it cover? Property damage only? Whose property? Personal injury? Other tenants and guests? Contractors or maintenance people working on the property? How high are the limits? Is the landlord going to be named as an additional insured in the policy? Is the landlord going to inspect each tenant’s insurance contract and know what to look for?

    The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) says that the renter cannot be required to limit the liability of the landlord or indemnify the landlord for that liability. (RCW 59.18.230). So a tenant can’t be required to buy insurance for losses for which the landlord is liable. And requiring renter’s insurance cannot undermine a landlord’s duties (RCW 59.18.360 and 59.18.060). But how far can the landlord go in requiring renter’s insurance?

    The bottom line is, nobody really knows. Renter’s insurance clauses I have seen are imprecise and amount to optional recommendations for the tenant. This subject area is ripe for further development by litigation or legislation. Eventually somebody will try to overreach in this topic, and the legislature will struggle with it. For now, my opinion is that, unlike in commercial tenancies, a residential landlord can't require renter's insurance.

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